The funeral was quite large, a bit to fancy for Alek's liking.
There were at least five hundred people in attendance, most of them sobbing their damned eyes out. Alek shook his head. He was only duke for a few months, had he earned the right to have tears shed over him?
Alek winced as he took his seat next to Deryn. The wound Volger had given him still felt fresh as the day he had recieved it. Dr. Barlow sat on Dery's right, dabbing at her eyes under the black veil cascading from her outrageous hat.
He took Deryn's hand, and she gave it a squeeze. This was going to be difficult. No matter how insane Volger had gotten, or how terrible he had been to Alek as a child, he had been there, and had sacrificed many things to make sure Alek got his chance, even his life.
Alek had found out that day that Volger and Klopp were the only two to have made it out of the Leviathan's crash. Volger must have mistaken Alek's body for Bauer's charred corpse, and Klopp had lost a leg. He sat a few rows behind Alek, and had nearly sobbed upon seeing him, gathering him into a huge rib-cracking hug. Someone had fashioned a nice leg for him, but he still needed to use crutches to get around properly. But apparently he could still pilot a walker just fine.
The last few days had been extremely busy, Alek being pestered by everyone under the sun. The poor scroll had been opened and reopened so many times that it nrealy fell apart. He nad Deryn had not gotten a proper night's rest since their first night in the castle.
Deryn had been very quiet, unable to bear the fact that she had killed a man. When Alek was asked what happened, he took the blame for it, not wanting Deryn to be prosecuted for anything. He told the truth about Volger going bonkers and the swordfight, but that it was he that had slain Volger. No one would send an archduke to jail.
Alek had been questioned about many things, where he had been, where he had gotten the scroll. But in the end, he was deemed to be the heir, no one taking the dead pope's word for anything less than what it was. And now that Franz Joseph was dead as well, Alek had the freedom to rule without consequence.
The dismal music began and the entire premise quieted. Alek turned his head and watched as Volger's casket was carried by six strong men across the lawn, slowly and purposefully. They brought Volger to the large hole that had been dug for him, and rested the casket on the lowering mechanism. The men stepped aside as a priest came foward and raised his hands for silence.
"We gather here today to,,,"
Alek couldn't concentrate. The reality of the situation had finally hit him, ripping through his heart like a vicious knife. His throat tightened up and the tears came. Volger....the man who had, for years, treated Alek like nothing, was gone. The man who had traveled iwth his father to prepare for the worst, left his home, and put up with living on an an airship for Alek....was gone, dead. And he would enver come back.
Alek choked, coughing and sputtering, the tears streaming from his face and into his lap. Deryn leaned over to peer into his eyes, but he pushed her awy, standing and running as fast as he could away from the cemetary and the corpse of his tutor.
Alek made it to the street where he turned and took off up the sidewalk. The Royal Cemetary wasn't far from his home, he could make it before his torso would ache too badly. He thought he heard footsteos behind him but he didn't stop to investigate. He needed ot get away...
He should have never come back to Austrai. If he had just stayed with Deryn in America, Volger would not be dead. Alek fought back the tears as he ran, the fresh air clearing his head.
The guards opened the gates as he sprinted by, very confused looks on their faces. He stormed up the marble steps and down the halls, not stopping until he had reached Volger's quarters, slamming the wooden door behind him. Alek broke down right there,, his back against the door. He slid to the floor, burying his face in his hands.
"Why? Why did you leavem e here? I can't do this on my own! Don't you understand that this is too much for one boy? But you left anyway! Gone, nothing else for you to worry about now! Left it all for me to clean up!" Alek screamed at the ceiling. He stood, overcome by rage, and started tearing things down. He ripped teh tapestries from the walls, upturned the chairs, hurling the beautiful lamps across the room. He wiped everything off of Volger's desk in one swipe, then stormed over to the fencing saber rack, and pulled it down, shattering hte wood and sending the swords clattering in all directions.
Then he saw it. There was a safe built into the wall, small and discreet. Alek walked over to it, furiously wiping the tears from his eyes. Curiosity temporarily subdued his other emotions ans he investigated it. IT was simple enough, a four digit number combonation would open it. For kicks he tried it, but the handle held fast.
What on earth could the combonation be?, Alek thought. He tried many things, Volger's birthdate, His fathers and mothers wedding date, then finally his own birthday. The lock clicked and he twisted the handle, opening the door slowly.
The interior seemed to be empty, but upon closer look, Alek spied a lone envelope in the very back. He reached his hand inside and pulled it out. It was freshly stamped, the wax still new and his family crest emblazoned upon it. Couldn't be more than a week old. Alek righted one of the chairs and sat down on it, sticking his finger under the seal and cracking it open.
He pulled out a sheet of nice parchment paper and unfolded it carefully. he looked it over and recognized the penmanship instantly.
"My dearest Aleksandar,
I know this is going to be difficult for you to understand, but if you are reading this then I am indeed dead.
You may never believe what I am writing to you, but I hope in time it may become clearer. What I have done may be irrational and quite stupid, buit it was necessary to get you back to your rightful place.
The laws I threatened to put into affect were a bluff, a ploy to get you back into Austria. I found your friend Lilit in Istanbul and used her to find you. I knew you were never dead, and I passed Bauer's body off as yours to keep that quiet. Only Nora Barlow and I figured out that you were alive. It was all to obvious that you and Ms. Sharp dissapeared at the same time. If you thought you had pulled it off, you were sadly mistaken.
I understand your feelings for Ms. Sharp, and you are most likely scoffing at that statment. You and your father are very alike indeed, and it has been wonderful to see so much of him in you. He was an extraordinary person, and I have missed him so. You and he shared the same respect and loyalty to love, whether or not it was right. He would truly be proud of who you have become.
I made sure to write this to you before the power gets to me, as I am sure it will. I can feel it already, and I hope that you will never hve to read this. But I have the feeling that you will. Belive me, all I want is for you to take your rightful place as the Duke of Austria-Hungary. The throne is not mine, it was meant for you. You have earned it, don;t let all of your hard work go to waste. I am truly sorry for any misfortune I have brought upon you, but it was needed.
I have made sure you have enough money to last you a lifetime, your father left you quite the sum. Nothing should arise in the near future that I have not already taken care of, and I have already sent word in to cancel the propositions for the laws I made. You are free to make legal your marriage to Ms. Sharp, ad I am sure you plan to, or have already done.
Alek, I am truly, truly sorry for leaving you to run a country on your own, I know the stress must be terrible. But if you are anything like your father, you will take charge just fine. you are a strong willed man, and I will regret not being able to watch you become what you are destined to be.
My sincerest apoligies, Aleksandar,
Alek read and reread the letter several times, taking in each word until he could probably recite it without looking. His eyes stung, tears leaking without him realizing it. He was numb.
All this time Alek had been furious at the power hungry Volger, when really, he had planned it all out perfectly. He had given it all for Alek to take his fathers place. And it had worked out nearly flawlessly.
Alek felt a hand on his shoulder and turned ot see Deryn. She was looking down at him, tears formin in her eyes. She must have read it over his shoulder.
"Alek" she whipsered. But he shook his head, pulling her down into the chair with him, She pulled his shaking body into her arms, where Alek let it all out. He cried on her for what was most likely an eternity, the weight of it all nearly crushing him.
When he was finished, he stood, making the bravest face he could.
"Well, I won't let Volger's death be in vain." he said, helping Deryn to her feet. "Next week, we will get married, and together we will fix this mess my parents death created."
They strode out of the room, his hand grasping hers for dear life.